After a series of summer restaurant weeks around DC, two more similar promotions this fall are shining a light specifically on the city’s Black-owned restaurants with special menus and events.
First on the calendar is Washington DC Black Restaurant Week, starting on Friday, September 18 and running until Sunday, September 27. Founded by a Houston-based group, the restaurant week marks the organization’s first foray into the DC area after planting flags in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. Participating restaurants in the District include Cajun/Creole kitchen Puddin’, Shaw sausagery HalfSmoke, and woman-owned ice cream shop Here’s The Scoop, but others span from Baltimore to Spotsylvania County in Virginia.
“It’s all about creating sustainability for these businesses,” says managing partner Derek Robinson. “That is what Black Restaurant Week honestly stands for, outside of just celebrating the flavors of the African diaspora.”
Rather than mandate set prices for prix-fixe meals, restaurants create their own promotions, listed on each spot’s profile in the directory. The result is a spectrum of specials: happy hours, brunch deals, discount dishes, and more. In an effort to encourage Washingtonians to explore the range of restaurants, the partners devised a bingo board with squares guiding diners to sample the range of options, from vegan meals to Caribbean food. Diners who hit “bingo” can save their receipts and enter a contest to win gift card prizes.
Later in the fall, the third annual DMV Black Restaurant Week kicks off from Sunday, November 8 to Sunday, November 15. Curated by Serenata beverage director Andra “AJ” Johnson, chef Furard Tate, and GW hospitality professor Dr. Erinn Tucker, the DC industry pros selected “the power of collaboration” as this year’s theme.
“Restaurants have to collaborate with our customers in a way that we’ve never asked them to do,” says Johnson. “This year, it really is more so focused on the power of collaboration, and how we can all work together to save, support, and enhance our industry, and change it for the better.”
Part of that support is, of course, ordering food from participating restaurants, which will be announced closer to the launch date. Full-service spots set their own prices for three course menus and also make their own decisions regarding takeout and delivery options. Bars and lounges offer a ten-percent discount, and businesses like cafes, carryouts, and caterers will grant a 15-percent discount on food.
In addition to the promotions, programming will feature both in-person and virtual components, as well as a signature cocktail melding products from Black-owned spirit companies. For Johnson, the importance of Black Restaurant Week goes above and beyond financially supporting businesses; It also elevates the visibility of Black voices in the restaurant industry.
“Being able to turn on the news or open up a link to an article or open up a magazine and flip to a page where you see somebody that looks like you in it doing amazing things for their city is 100-percent important,” says Johnson. “[It lets] people know that they can succeed in this business.”